Many types of group function on the Web, and differ in respect of the relationship between them and their members. Three prominent types of group, all with different ethical implications are:

  • Artificial groups created by classification algorithms and big data analytics. A member of such a group may be unaware of the fact, while the ML algorithms may not easily provide explanations.
  • Social networks of which its members may generally accept and expect membership. These might be demographic groups, or people linked by a social network site.
  • Social machines. These are groups linked by networked technologies that are connected with some kind of function. Such computer-mediated interaction and computational support have enabled communities to provide a social response to modern problems of crime, such as BlueServo, transport, such as Waze, health, such as PatientsLikeMe, and citizen science, such as Zooniverse.

Each of these types of Web-based social aggregation stands to benefit from technological developments, but also faces challenges. The standard ethical toolbox of data protection, consent, transparency and accountability may not provide all the protections that are required. Furthermore, groups of all types are composed and recomposed constantly, as new members join and old ones leave (often without their knowledge); whereas the individual is stable enough to ground legal and ethical principles, the group may not be.

The goal of the event is to establish some of the ethical and legal parameters of this area, and to consider how Web Science techniques can be brought to bear.


The event takes place on May 27th and will be full day, with an open call for papers, a keynote and a closing panel. The schedule is as follows:

Time Activity
09.00 - 10.00 Registration and coffee
10.00 - 11.00 Keynote speaker, David De Roure, University of Oxford “Interdisciplinarity, ethics, and the study of social machines”
11.00 - 12.10 Paper session.
  Kieron O’ Hara, University of Southampton / Winchester. “Social Machines and the Virtues”
  Claudia Pagliari, University of Edinburgh, “The Meaning and Misuse of Identify in the Social Machine Age”
  Reuben Binns, University of Oxford. “Is There Any Room for Group Privacy?”
  Aastha Madaan, University of Southampton. “Exemplars of Cyberphysical Social Machines”
  Q&A / Open Discussion with the speakers
12.10 - 12.30 Group planning the afternoon session: Identify 3-4 main themes or topics for discussion for afternoon discussion break-outs
12.30 - 14.00 Lunch
14:00 - 15.30 Working groups around themes/topics. Consider the following questions for discussion:
  1. Characterising the problem. Who are all the stakeholders involved; who does it affect most and how?
  2. How problems or concerns might start to be addressed.
  3. Collaboration opportunities
  Aim to produce 1 slide to present major points.
15.30 - 16.00 Report back major themes from break-outs, wrap-up and next steps
16.00 + Joint reception, drinks and snacks in the main room

Keynote speaker

Professor David De Roure. David De Roure is Professor of e-Research at the University of Oxford. Focused on advancing digital scholarship, Prof. De Roure works closely with multiple disciplines including social sciences (studying social machines), humanities (computational musicology and experimental humanities), engineering (Internet of Things), and computer science (large scale distributed systems and social computing). He has extensive experience in hypertext, Web Science, Linked Data, and Internet of Things. Drawing on this broad interdisciplinary background he is a frequent speaker and writer on the future of digital scholarship and scholarly communications.

Prof. De Roure has strategic responsibility for Digital Humanities at Oxford within The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH). He is a member of Cyber Security Oxford, an Oxford Martin Senior Fellow, and collaborates with the Oxford Internet Institute in Web Science. He was Director of the Oxford e-Research Centre 2012-17. Prior to moving to Oxford in 2010 he was Professor of Computer Science at University of Southampton, where he was Director of the Centre for Pervasive Computing in the Environment. He was closely involved in the UK e-Science programme and from 2009-2013 was the UK National Strategic Director for Digital Social Research for the UK Economic and Social Research Council, and subsequently Strategic Advisor for new and emerging forms of data and real time analytics.

He is a Fellow of the British Computer Society and the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, a visiting professor at Goldsmiths, University of London, and a Supernumerary Fellow of Wolfson College where he chairs the Digital Research Cluster.


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam.

Room: BelleVUe 1H-24


Chair: Kieron O’Hara (Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton)

  • Reuben Binns (University of Oxford)
  • Claudia Pagliari (University of Edinburgh)
  • Anni Rowland-Campbell (Intersticia)
  • Linnet Taylor (Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society, University of Tilburg)
  • Thanassis Tiropanis (University of Southampton)
  • Max Van Kleek (Dept. of Computer Science, University of Oxford)
  • Jun Zhao (University of Oxford)